October 30, 2010


11 miles this morning, on a route I swore was all uphill.

3 walk breaks. 
(Chocolate Hammer Gel tastes like brownie batter, btw.)

Average pace = 11:49

That is all.

Letter To My Best Friend

I cannot choose just one best friend. I am lucky enough to have 3. 

Superman, for 28 years now you have amazed me with your curiosity, intelligence, talents, sensitivity, and heart. We lost contact several times over the years, but the friendship was always there, easily renewed once we found each other again. I believe that has more to do with you than I, as even when I was too ashamed to call you friend, you were still there for me. I enjoy your company on long road trips, where conversation and silence are both comfortable, and the car offers an intimate connection not available during our normal, hectic lives. Conversation with you almost invariably includes at least one burst of laughter, and frequently a tidbit of knowledge I otherwise would have missed. I love that you focus on learning, that your explorations cover such a wide range of topics. I know, were I to decide I was going to the moon, you would encourage me and do what you could to help me achieve that goal. You show (almost) unlimited patience, and have listened to me day after day after day, working out issues or simply venting to release steam. You push me to work toward my stated goals. You enjoy with me my guilty pleasures. You have expanded my horizons, and I look forward to sharing adventures with you for many, many years to come.

Goddess, you are one of the smartest people I know. I understand you are strong, not so much because you want to be, but because you have to be. That does not in any way diminish the strength you exhibit regularly, and which I admire greatly. Together we share our realist perspective on the world, and fight to keep it from dragging us down. We also share similar ideas on parenting, fun and play, along with a sprinkling of philosophy and psychology. We may disagree on the occasional musical group or writer, but many of our tastes coincide. Our friendship has also waxed and waned, though we've tried to stay in touch. I hope we now have enough electronic pathways to keep us in contact for the duration. No matter what the future holds, I will always remember the red-footed pigeons, and I will always remember you.

Cinderella, you have the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met. You are more brave than I believe you know, as what I consider adventure you just call your life. For that matter, you don't give yourself enough credit on several fronts. For the longest time, my habit was to let relationships lapse as lives drifted apart. Even through moves to Chicago and New York, you have been a constant in my life. You have helped me learn how to maintain a friendship over the long term. You have helped me grow. Besides the fact we both recently started running, I cannot name a single thing we have in common. That doesn't stop me from wanting your friendship and your perspective in my life. My interactions with you enrich me, and I look forward to every conversation. 

Edit: Cinderella reminds me we actually do have several things in common, including both being born somewhere in the middle of large families and a history of working in law firms. 8-) Love, love, love her!

I am truly blessed, and I thank the three of you for being who you are. My life is that much better, for knowing you.

October 28, 2010

OK, so I lied...

I said I would start the letter writing challenge tonight, but instead I'm going to talk about my 3 mile run in Vibrams. I'll start the letter writing tomorrow (or maybe Saturday).

Funny how things work.  My day was similar in many ways to Trail Pigeon's, only in reverse. I started the day picking up Ninja, and hung out with him until early afternoon. We shopped for Halloween costumes, as Superman and I are invited to a movie and TV show themed costume party on Saturday. Superman will be Dr. Cox from Scrubs. I will be Charlie Brown ("I got a rock!"). As Ninja is staying with me for the next week, we also had to do some grocery shopping.
You can't see him.
He's hiding behind his fingers.
I knew I had to run today, but didn't really want to. I put it off for the better part of the afternoon, but finally decided I'd better go before it got dark. I was in no mood for toe tape and shoes, so opted to run in my Vibram FiveFinger KSO's, which I have neglected almost since I purchased them. I fully expect to put more miles on them after November's race. For today, I ran 3, which is twice as far as I've run in them in the past. 

I'm still not certain how best to run in the Vibrams, and remembered Barefoot Neil's observation here, that they are actually in no way like barefoot running. I can't wait until next spring, when I can start running barefoot for real! For now, my feet are not prepared for acorns and random glass. 

I started today's run on just the balls of my feet, with my heels not even touching the ground. After Tuesday's run, I was concerned about my plantar fasciitis and my sore calf. I knew if I did much heel striking I would pay for it later! It didn't take long for my heels to come down though, and I started focusing on 1) relaxing, as Angie Bee always talks about, 2) landing on the forefoot, 3) only touching the heel down lightly, 4) pushing off with the forefoot, and 5) letting my leg stretch behind me in the new stride I've been so happy with.

I'd forgotten that after Tuesday's run I configured Jog Log to tell me my average pace every 10 minutes, so was pleasantly surprised when it said I was running an average 11:23. I am now aware I always start out fast, so took note that I was well below what I still consider my standard 12-minute-mile pace, and kept doing what I was doing. By the 2nd 10-minute announcement, I was in a groove, incorporating all my focus items, and running comfortably. Running, not jogging. When Jog Log told me the second 10 minutes were at an average pace of 11:13, I thought of Trail Pigeon's most recent post, and how she ran each successive mile faster than the last. After my first mile in Vibrams I talked about using them for speed work, at least for now. I wanted to make my last mile faster yet, and started pushing the pace. 

Final splits? 11:18, 11:06, 10:48. I don't know if it's the Vibrams, the shorter distance (yes, it makes me smile to say 3 miles is the "shorter distance"), or what. I do believe I may have to rethink what I call my standard pace. I also think a 2:37 half in November is looking more and more likely. 

I've 11 miles scheduled for Saturday. I'm thinking the route will be mostly flat, and Superman is running it with me. I always do better when he runs with me. My last long run was at a 12:26 pace, with walk breaks and a shoe adjustment. I'm hoping to hit much closer to my race goal pace this time.  

30 Day Letter Writing Challenge

I have considered taking on this challenge since my cyber-friend Lady Di over at Nothing But Gray Matter started hers, several weeks ago. I enjoy writing and blogging again after a long hiatus, but find I don't always have something to say. This will probably be the first of many writing-assignment-type gap fillers. Don't worry, I'll let you know when I'm just filling space. It's not required reading, and you won't be tested at the end.

Like Lady Di, I will not write letters for 30 days straight. First, I have a life that does not always allow me to write. Second, I don't really want to scare off my little band of faithful followers. Rest assured, there will be real life and running interspersed. 

I will head each letter post with the topic of the day, e.g. "Letter to my favorite internet friend," so those who are not interested can skip that day's post. I will not name the people to whom my letters are written. If you recognize yourself in a post, send me a note and I will (probably) let you know if it's you. I'm all about changing names to protect the innocent (and guilty!) so you may find yourself with a new moniker in the process. 

The list of letters to be written:
My best friend
My crush
My parents (guess I can't protect them!)
My sibling (or closest relative)
My dreams
A stranger
My ex
My favorite internet friend
Someone I wish I could meet
Someone I don't talk to as much as I'd like
A deceased person I wish I could talk to (ooooh!  Brains!)
The person I hate most or who caused me a lot of pain
A person I wish could forgive me
Someone I've drifted away from
The person I miss the most
Someone who's not in my state/country
Someone from my childhood
The person I wish I could be
Someone who pesters my mind
The one who broke my heart the hardest
Someone I judged on a first impression
Someone I want to give a second chance to
The last person I kissed
The person who gave me my favorite memory
The person I know is going through the worst of times
The last person I made a pinky promise to
The friendliest person I knew for only a day
Someone that changed my life
The person I want to tell everything to, but am afraid to
My reflection in the mirror

I will write my first letter later today. I hope you enjoy the ride! 

October 27, 2010

What have I done?!?

Ran another 4 at approximately 11-minute-mile pace
Superman and I went out last night for our regular Tuesday night run. I'm trying to make 4 miles the standard, so we took the same route as last Tuesday. We started out fast, as usual, and I wasn't comfortable at all. Superman had done 6 miles the previous evening, so he really didn't want to hear my grouse about stiff and tired legs. 

The route goes up a slow grade to the top of the street, then continues up around the corner and most of the way to the next turn - about 1.2 miles total. From that turn it's downhill for about a mile and a half, levels out for a mile, then goes uphill again for the final quarter mile. 

Last week we did this at an 11:05 pace, which was astounding to me at the time. I then went back and did it at a 12:04 pace, which included stops to readjust toe tape, and walking breaks. It seems I forgot the 11:05 pace, because I was thrilled to log in an 11:47 pace last night. 

Made a golf-course pit stop
I actually do have room to be thrilled, because that time includes a pit stop at the golf course. That was an adventure in itself, which I hope never to repeat! What can I say though?  When you gotta, you gotta. I did the math and realized there was no way I was going to make it another 2 miles before exploding. I figure, minus the pit stop, we averaged somewhere around the 11-minute-mile pace from last week. 

Strained my calf
Once we passed the golf course, things were a bit easier. My S1 wasn't bothering me at all, as it has for the past week. As we hit the home stretch, my calf started cramping. I could feel things in my heel as well, so assumed it was an extension of the plantar fasciitis that flares up occasionally, and pushed on. I expected my heel to be painful today, and that I would have to stretch A LOT over the next few days. Instead, it's my calf that is bothering me, with just a twinge in my heel. I'm only vaguely concerned, as I assume the cure is the same as for plantar fasciitis, which means a lot of stretching over the next few days. 

What I will NOT do
I learned my lesson when I first started running this past January. Running up steep hills in the snow introduced me to heel pain, which I now know to be plantar fasciitis. I simply ran through it, believing it would go away. It did not go away. I ended up benched for a month while it healed, then had to start all over. I will not be running through this. I will stretch and let it heel a few days before trying to run on it again. It means not running Superman's hilly 4.5-miler tonight, though we may walk them. I will take it one day at a time, and decide as I go whether this weekend's long run should be truncated, or if I will even run at all. 

October 25, 2010

How to become a RUNNER...

I've been catching flack for not feeling the title RUNNER. Superman believes, since it is my main form of exercise, that makes me a RUNNER. I hear the Energizer Bunny also finds it amusing I don't consider myself a RUNNER. She, of course, has been one since college. 

I think, first off, it's a club one has to want to be part of. I still don't enjoy running, though I have to say the sensation I've experienced in the last week, after changing my stride, is far more enjoyable than what I'd been doing. Saturday's 10-miler didn't suck, as it would have in the past. I do enjoy that I'm improving, as much as I enjoy knowing I've completed a run. That doesn't make me a RUNNER. I haven't earned that title yet. 

Zaneta at Runner's Luck would understand. She posted this yesterday, announcing she achieved her personal definition of RUNNER by losing her first toenail. I like in the comments how someone suggested she get a shirt saying "toenails are for sissies!" For the record, that is not my definition. Andrew at Running Man Wannabe would understand, although some of his followers suggested he take the "wannabe" off his blog title after he ran his first 5K. He didn't, and I wonder if he's achieved his definition of RUNNER yet.

My definition includes regularly running more days out of the week than not. It includes an addiction to running, an enjoyment I do not as yet feel. Now, it's a form of exercise and a way to help control my thyroid. It is becoming a part of who I am, though there's still the chance I might bail over the winter. This is the longest I've ever maintained an exercise program I didn't pay for (other than races). After 5 years in Tae Kwon Do, I still didn't consider myself a martial artist. I always held a part of myself back, never succumbed to the religion. Even if I'd achieved that black belt, I'm not sure I would have considered myself an artist. I was always a student, and I liked it that way. I feel the same about running. There is so much I haven't learned, so much I haven't even attempted: the regular training, the diet, the marathon. I can see myself as an ultra marathoner someday. Just not today.

I do hope to one day call myself a RUNNER, but I'm not there yet. 

October 24, 2010

A "little" 10-miler

Yeah, I know "little" doesn't apply when talking about a 10-mile run, but it was worth a shot, right?
Along the bike path where I ran in Euclid Creek Park
I ran 10 of what was supposed to be an 11-mile long run yesterday, through the park. This whole "long run" concept has me reeling a little, mainly because my training schedules are so completely ad hoc. I've signed up for a half-marathon a month for the last several months, and plan to do the same throughout the 2011 running season. This schedule makes the standard "take a day off for every mile you race" recovery period moot. Combine a 13-day recovery with the suggested 10-day taper, and I would only get one real long run in between races. Considering how quickly my thyroid condition literally drains my strength if I don't actively work to maintain it, a single long run between races will not suffice.

I am still working out how my body reacts to racing, and to runs of various lengths. After the Towpath Half Marathon earlier this month, I decided I would spend just the following week recovering, before focusing on the Cleveland Fall Classic on November 21. My definition of recovery is similar to tapering. Each lasts a week, during which time I refuse to run longer than a short 3-miler on any given day (that being the farthest I can currently run without next day repercussions). I also refuse to run 2 consecutive days during these weeks. While I eventually would like to run 5-6 miles, 5-6 days a week, I now only manage 3-4 days: usually two 3-5 milers and a long run of varying length. I am supposed to add a barefoot speed mile in on the off days, but that hasn't happened with any regularity, yet. What this really means is, taper and recovery are not much different from my regular schedule. The main difference turns out to be how much I say I want to run, not how much I actually do run. 

It's all just an experiment, anyway. November's race will be my 3rd half marathon, so the data is still inconclusive on how best to prepare and recover. Thus, while I may be slightly disappointed when I don't hit my scheduled runs, I am also completely ok with listening to my body and not pushing things too hard. Considering the run schedule is arbitrary, I don't lose any sleep.

Near the top of Euclid Creek Park, about where I turned around 
Yesterday's run was a steady uphill of varying grades, for just over 5 miles, then downhill on the way back. I did not run it non-stop. My S1 gave me some issue toward the end, which is why I cut it short. My toe taping worked, for the most part. My fueling plan worked perfectly. My electrolyte plan still needs work, but at least I now have one. Taking all that into consideration, I still ran at a 12:26 average pace, which is a good 20 seconds per mile faster than my last half marathon pace. If the Cleveland Fall Classic is as flat as I hear, I believe I have a good chance of hitting my goal pace (and a new PR) of 12-minute-miles. I have 2 more long runs and 3 more weeks to work that out in, before race week taper. Guess I'll see what happens...

October 21, 2010

A learning experience

I went out this afternoon for a little 4 mile run (like the way a 4-miler has now become "little"? I do!) I had to put something in the mail, so thought I would run the reverse of Tuesday's route, which went so well. Easy peasy, right? L-O-L! My legs laughed at me. At least that's what I thought they were doing. Turns out I have absolutely no concept of pace.

I started at what I thought was a reasonable pace, struggling a little because I wasn't warmed up and wasn't well hydrated (something I REALLY have to fix, as this happens all too often). I was focusing on the new stride I used Tuesday, but my legs felt tired. I stopped to mail my letter, then again for a short walk at almost the 2 mile marker. I didn't feel I was pushing, just that I was tired. Little did I know I ran that mile, even with stops, at a 10:37!

I heard Jog Log announce I was at 2 miles, just as I was sitting down to readjust my toe setup (tape and hammer-toe silicon thingee). Putting myself back together, I ran a bit more comfortably up the slow grade that Superman and I ran down for a sub-11 negative split the other day. 12:37 for that mile, 12:10 for the 3rd, and a 12:52 for the 4th. I walked a bit of the 3rd, and probably the last quarter mile of the 4th mile, because the toe situation shifted and was lifting toes I neither need nor want lifted. Very uncomfortable. The tape worked well enough Tuesday, so I'll have to figure out what I did differently today.

I thought I was doing my first mile at an 11-minute pace, and the subsequent miles between 12 and up to 15 with the walks. If Jog Log can be trusted, I am running faster than I thought, which is a WONDERFUL thing! It means I am progressing, which I have not felt for several months. I am attributing the progress to my new stride, because in addition to running faster than I have ever recorded, I also actually feel like I'm RUNNING now. 

9/12/10 River Run Half Marathon
Before, I had short little strides that carried me slowly from point A to point B. The best I could call it was jogging, and sometimes it was more like wogging (a walking jog), only not as pretty as race walkers! In race photos, you can see both my feet are touching the ground at the same time (and yes, I see the heel strike, too). This was taken at the 2nd mile of September's half marathon. 

Today, while my legs did feel tired, when I had the stride going I actually felt I was running instead of jogging or wogging. I can FEEL that my feet are not on the ground at the same time. In the 4th mile, I was able to speed up and bound across the street well ahead of traffic, where before I would have waited for the traffic to pass.

I don't know how long I can sustain this stride, or this new pace of mine, on any one run. I assume my legs were tired from Tuesday, but also from running so fast today. I found myself falling back into my old stride at times, which made me work harder for the same speed. It will certainly be a struggle at the Cleveland Fall Classic, a month from today. 

I'll find out Saturday, on my long run, if I can either slow the stride or maintain it at the new, higher speed for longer distances. I'm also trying to work out a better fuel strategy for the long runs. After reading Angie Bee's recent marathon report, and experiencing a minor hamstring cramp during the last few runs, I'm wondering if I'm missing something by not focusing on electrolytes. The biggest question is how to carry everything, and how to stomach it all on the long runs. 

Guess I'll figure something out, one way or the other. Just another learning experience...

October 20, 2010

Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride

Superman plays The Tab Game on Wikipedia. He usually starts with a question or curiosity, like "how does one smelt?" As he reads the article, he opens a new browser tab for each linked page that also interests him. The game is figuring out how he got from the effects of nuclear explosions to irukandji jellyfish, in a single session.

When I am avoiding more important things have nothing better to do, I browse the blog lists of my favorite bloggers in a similar manner. I may end up with 15 or 20 tabs open, all seemingly random blogs that caught my attention on my favorite's pages. This is why I have no idea where I found Rick and his post on Steve Magness's running theory.

It being past midnight at the time, I did not read Steve's website thoroughly. I bookmarked it and sent it to Ninja, who is also trying to improve his run. What I did read was Rick's description of Steve's "Science of Running," where you think of the road like a treadmill and let it drag your foot and leg behind you. The idea is you use less energy, because the elasticity of what he called the "hip stretch/reflex mechanism" will then automatically lift your foot and pull your knee forward.

For some reason I believe I ultimately should be running an hour a day every weekday, with a long run on the weekend. At this point I'm not yet capable of running every day, not to mention 5-6 miles a day every day. I had that goal in mind however, as Superman and I headed out for our regular Tuesday run. Having a busy day, I had not gotten back to Steve's website, but as we headed out I thought about Rick's description and tried to put it into practice. 

My splits:
11:00 - I apparently always start out fast
10:43 - a gentle downhill grade
11:17 - feeling the run here, with cramping down the back of my thigh
11:11 - told Superman I had to slow down due to cramping

I knew I was pushing, but I don't know I would have made it 4 miles, pushing that way with my normal stride. I also changed the way I taped my toes, which may actually work for a longer run. 

Overall, I still don't know what I'm doing, but I must be doing something right. Wheeee!

October 18, 2010

To blog or not to blog...

A friend asked yesterday why I blog. Am I doing this for my own personal satisfaction, or am I looking for some response from my readers (all 3 of you!)? I gave her a detailed answer, for a Facebook comment, but the question continues to haunt me. 
I blog because I enjoy writing, and I can keep up with my thoughts better when I type, as opposed to writing in longhand. Leaving it online prevents accidental deletion or loss from a computer crash. Leaving it out in the open invites readers, and their comments if they so choose. I hope to learn from those comments. 
I blog because, on any particular day, I may feel I have something to say, something to discuss, something to work out, or maybe something interesting to share. I may vent, or purge my head of something that won't leave me alone. I may reach out for help or understanding. The blog becomes a diary, and also a letter to myself, my friends, my family, and yes the random stranger in the blogosphere who happens upon my page. 
Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis
Superman does not like to blog, because he is uncertain what to share and what to keep private. I don't have much I feel needs to be kept private (other than names and places, which have been changed to protect the innocent). I am who I am, and as long as I don't share anything hurtful about somebody else, I prefer to keep things wide open. 
Part of why I blog is the community. Presenting myself as who I am, neuroses, weaknesses, blemishes and all, I hope to encourage and invite others to get to know me through my writing. In reading my posts, I hope they find something that strikes a chord or has meaning for them. At least, the blog becomes a diary, wherein I hope to improve my self expression - even if no one reads. At most, I hope for positive interaction and dialog, to make friends and learn from their experiences. 
Why else do people blog, but to share? Are there any bloggers out there, reading this? What makes you pull that page up, write your thoughts out, and publish that post?

October 17, 2010

Ambitious me (or am I just hopeful?)

I've been choosing very ambitious goals all weekend. First, for some reason I cooked enough food to feed an army. I must be very ambitious to think I'm going to eat all this:
A dozen hard boiled eggs
A gallon of cherry Jello w/mango
A salmon casserole
Several lbs. of mashed sweet potatoes
2 pie pumpkins reduced to puree
Left over pumpkin pancakes
Everything else is left over from last week
(except the potatoes donated by my next door neighbor) 
Granted, Ninja was home for the weekend and needed feeding, but still. I think this qualifies as just a touch over ambitious...

I was ambitious to think I could go out singing 2 nights in a row with no repercussions. While I had GREAT fun, I averaged about 5 hours of sleep both nights, and naps simply do not agree with me. I did manage to get all my homework done on my laptop, using the free wireless connection. Dangerous, that!
Wide-Eyed and Laughing at Karaoke
I am ambitious to think my pepper plants are going to survive transplanting and winter well indoors. Or is that just hopeful? Pepper plants apparently do survive well for years, as long as they get enough light and don't freeze. I could even get the right lights to make them flower and grow peppers all year long, if I wanted to spend the scratch. I'm not quite that ambitious. (or am I?). 
They're bent over because they started out in Topsy Turveys,
hanging out my 2nd story window. I'm hopeful they'll straighten somewhat, eventually.
I am definitely hopeful my watermelon patch will survive the winter as well. I'm a bit more realistic than hopeful about this, as I have no way to bring it indoors and what I've read says it can go either way. <crossing fingers, toes and eyeballs>
Can you see my 3 little watermelons? They and the one I ate last week will be the entire crop.  Not bad considering the plant was transplanted into a little bathroom wastebasket for over a month while I waited on the waterproofing guys to finish...
Lastly, I was extremely ambitious to attempt a 10 mile run after giving up everything I had at last Sunday's race, putting in work at my Dad's all week, then staying out late 2 nights in a row. Needless to say the run did not go as planned.

I tried taping my toe, in an effort to reduce the pain I feel when running distance. Toward the end of last Tuesday's run I realized I was lifting my big toe, which left the one next to it (the one that hurts) to take the brunt of each landing. I could relax my big toe only for a moment before it lifted again. I hoped taping the first 2 toes together with a spacer in between would either drag the big toe down or lift up the one next to it, reducing pressure until I can figure out how to stop the behavior.  

According to Jog Log, I started out at an 11-minute-mile pace, which didn't feel overly fast. I was not well hydrated and my legs were tired, so I expected a struggle. I'm not sure I've recovered from the race yet, and am disappointed at that thought. The Energizer Bunny spent the afternoon apple picking after the race. The Monday following I was still bone tired exhausted. I know she's been running for years and years and years, and that my stamina and recovery times will improve, eventually. I just hoped to feel better a week out.

My pace deteriorated by about a half a minute per mile over the next 2 miles. Miles 3 and 4 were at my standard distance run 12-minute-mile pace. (I'm started to doubt Google, by the way, since Jog Log told me my miles were further than Google indicated.) I planned to fuel every 4th mile, since every 3 felt too often last week. By the time I hit 4 miles I was struggling, the back of my thigh was cramping slightly in the same place it had last Sunday, and my toe hurt. I stopped and took the tape off, leaving the spacer, and headed off again. That seemed to help for a while. 

By the time I hit mile 6, I was done with my toe. I took my shoes off and ran the next mile and half barefoot. I ran over grass where I could, but also on concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads. It felt faster, but that mile clocks in at 12:03. I carried my shoes, which tired my arms, and I stopped running when I stubbed my toe slightly. I figured my ankles and legs were tired, and I  don't want to push to the same level of exhaustion I was at last week. 

I walked the remaining 2.5 miles home, and am content with my run. A mile and a half at standard long distance pace, barefoot, is an improvement. As long as I'm improving, I'm happy. Even if I didn't achieve my ambitious (or hopeful) distance goal.  There is always next week, when the mileage goes up to 11. The Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon is in only 5 weeks, and my ambitious goal is to PR at a 12-minute mile pace (2:37:20).

October 16, 2010

First mile in Vibrams

I ran my first mile in my new Vibram KSOs on Thursday. This was on concrete, and the farthest I had run barefoot, prior, was a quarter mile. It is now Saturday and I still feel slightly tender when I press down with the balls of my feet. Running barefoot will certainly take a longer adaptation period than this immediate gratification/ADD girl was originally willing to give! 

Seriously, the run went very smoothly. I ran on concrete, which may be why I still feel it today. I did not feel I was pushing it very hard, but according to my new iPhone GPS app (Jog Log, which I love Love LOVE!) I hit that mile at a 10:30 pace, where I'm accustomed to running closer to 12! I have no idea if it has anything to do with the Vibrams, lack of heavy standard running shoes, the cooler weather, the fact that I hadn't run since Tuesday, that it was only a mile... what I know is I was wearing Vibrams and I ran a 10:30.  Fastest. Mile. Evar! Woot!

Other thoughts on the run: 

I might stick to Vibrams and not go full barefoot, much as I like the idea of sans shoes. My experience so far has been acorn shells, and there was glass in a few spots on my way around the block. The gravel would have worried me as well, if I hadn't walked barefoot all over my neighbor's gravel drive all the time as a kid. I may change my mind as I find other places to run, but in my neighborhood, barefoot may not be my best choice.  

It might be time for me to start doing speed work, as in sprinting a mile every now and again. I may not have been pushing that mile very hard, but I was pushing. It was good to find out I actually can flat out RUN a mile, as opposed to the regulation of resources I do when running farther. I'm now curious to see how far I can flat out run, and how fast I can push it for a single mile. I will be running many more single miles before I pick up the distance in the Vibrams. While my feet become conditioned, I can play with that mile and see where it takes me.

I will have to start running a mile every couple days in the Vibrams, to condition my feet. As I am running the Cleveland Fall Classic half marathon on November 21, I have to run the Vibram miles in addition to my longer distance training in regular shoes. Maybe it's time to work up an actual schedule, instead of winging it the way I have for everything but the long runs.

Until now I have been concerned mainly with distance, and time only when racing. The Jog Log app changes things. I now know how fast I run each mile. I can start thinking about how each pace feels, and start working toward improvement in the speed direction. Not that I ever expect to even compete in races. I just like the idea of improving, and speed is another direction on which I can focus.

I'm still not certain my form is correct, but judging by where my feet are sore today I think I'm getting a lot closer. My knee hurt after Thursday's run though, so I still have things like my ankle to consider. I found some knee exercises that might help, and will start those this week. My ankles have been popping, which to me means they are getting a workout and are not as stiff as before. 


October 10, 2010

Towpath Half Marathon

Superman and I at the start of the 10/10/10 Towpath Half Marathon
I'll start my race recap all the way back to this past May, when I ran the Towpath 10K. I struck up a conversation at the start of that race with a gentleman who told me he was running the Akron marathon, because he'd heard the Towpath marathon was boring and flat. I'd already signed up for today's race at that point, but was concerned with the distance enough to like hearing "flat." We then ran the 10K on the Valley View portion of the path (the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath runs approximately 100 miles), which is in fact rather flat.

Yesterday I went to pick up our packets and discovered today's race was not on the same section of towpath as the 10K. It was based out of the ski resort near Hudson. Ski resorts are not flat. I'm ok with a hill here and there, but the rises I was driving had me worried, especially considering my first attempt at a half marathon. 

I checked out the expo, hoping they would have a Vibram dealer with a discount. The expo was much smaller than I expected, with no Vibram dealer. I picked up packets for myself and my sister, the Energizer Bunny. I was happy they let me downsize my shirt, since I was a large when I signed up, but am now a medium!

I've never seen oil and vinegar in a packet before, and kind of expected a bit more for such a popular race, but was happy with the socks and shirt. There were also several coupons.

I was determined to purchase Vibrams, so after picking up the packets I searched my trusty iPhone for a local Vibram dealer. Lo and behold, there was one about 15 minutes down the road. I hopped in the car and headed over. I had no plan to run the race in the Vibrams, but do plan to include barefoot/Vibram runs in my routine. I hope to run the Cleveland Half Marathon in May 2011, in Vibrams (if not barefoot!). 

I looked at all the Vibrams the running shop had, and chose the Bikilas mainly for the tread. I expect to run in these outside all winter, so want some traction. Unfortunately, they did not have Bikilas in my size (only smaller), so I ended up with KSOs. I didn't want to wait another month to start running in them. I'll go back for the Bikilas before the snow starts flying, and get them a size larger so I can wear socks. Otherwise my feet will freeze! 

While I was trying on the KSOs, a gentleman came into the store for Gu. He was running the marathon, and I told him I was running the half. I then mentioned my concern about the hills, and he told me it wasn't that bad, that it was a relatively flat course. The Energizer Bunny told me the same later that day, and it turned out to be the case. I worried for nothing.

I don't know why, but I was up this morning at 4am, and couldn't go back to sleep. Superman was up at 5:30. We didn't have to be out the door until 6:30, so had plenty of time for breakfast and coffee. We pulled into the ski resort where the race would start at just about 7, and happened upon the Energizer Bunny with her friends as we walked through the parking area. We hit the porta-potties at just the right time, because the lines got crazy behind us. Not surprising, when all 3 races (10K, half and full marathon) were sold out.

In front of us at the start

Behind us at the start

The people you see in the pictures above are all running. The walkers started a good half hour earlier, and on a different route. I was glad the Energizer Bunny lined up with us. That's when she took the picture at the start of this post. I told her I had 3 goals. A = 2:30, which I knew to be impossible. B = 2:45, which was hopeful. C = under 3 hours, which was certainly doable.

The race started just after 8, and we headed down the hill toward the ski resort entrance. The Energizer Bunny started working her way forward the moment we crossed the line, and she was gone. I'd stretched and warmed my ankles since 4am, so they were loose and did not bother me as they normally would early in a run. Superman, as my pacer, warned me we were moving quickly, but I was comfortable.

3 miles later we turned off the road and onto the towpath. That was the last we saw of a hill, beyond a gentle rise here and there. I had a pleasant surprise when I found the path was actually a hard packed dirt and gravel trail. We would go out for 5 miles, turn around and come back, then finish just past where we entered the trail. It was all wooded, with glimpses of train tracks on one side, and bits of canal remnants on the other. We saw an old rusted out paper mill. We ran across wooden bridges. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-60s. I thought about taking the phone out for pictures, but didn't want to slow down. 

I missed the 3 mile marker, but Superman saw it, so according to plan I took my first fruit snack. I was comfortable and we settled into our pace. I walked through water stops, because I cannot drink from a cup on the run. Superman ran through them, so I would catch up to him after.  At about the 5th mile he had to make a pit stop, and I continued on. I was concerned he wouldn't be able to catch me when I saw there was a line, but as the elite runners started passing me on their way back, Superman came up from behind. The elites were incredible to behold, and I was impressed with Superman for catching up so quickly! I hadn't slowed for him...

I missed the 6 mile marker, so when we came up the 7 mile marker I took another fruit snack. By then I'd determined the sports drink, though watered down, made my stomach cramp. I was sticking to water. I was also watching for the Energizer Bunny to pass us on her way back. When she did, she had her head down and was hauling ass. I went for the high five, but she was already gone.

My toes, as they do, started hurting around mile 4. By mile 8 they and the balls of my feet were very uncomfortable. I walked a short distance, hoping to relieve some of the discomfort. It didn't work. Throughout the race I never walked more than 10 feet, which is a HUGE improvement over my last half marathon. Superman didn't walk, so every time I had to work to catch up with him, which was perfect. Pushing that way used muscles I wasn't using in my normal pace, so a time or two I was able to actually pass him and hold the increased pace for a short time. I think I walked a total of 4 times, not including water stops.

It was between mile 10 and 11 that the elite marathoners started passing us. I'd seen the leader on his way out, passing through a water stop without taking anything. I didn't even notice him breathing hard. We started seeing more and more marathoners, some walking, others stopping to stretch, but most running strong. I knew how I was feeling. Every time I saw a marathon mile marker, I considered how they would feel when they got to mile 24, 25, 26... 

At mile 11, I crashed. My breathing was strong through the entire race, until then. All of a sudden, I found myself hyperventilating, starting to cry, and on the verge of hysteria. It was just as we ran into a water stop, and I started to turn down the sports drink, then thought better of it. I was not exhausted from lack of fuel (a feeling I know all too well). Maybe I needed electrolytes. I still don't know if that was the problem, but 2 glasses of sports drink and I was better by mile 12. Exhausted. Asking "are we done yet?" But better than the episode at mile 11.

At this point I was pulling out all the mind games. My legs were exhausted and in pain. I chanted "almost there, almost there, almost there" under my breath for a while. I thought about this blog, about Barefoot Neil (I ran the race virtually for him, to help celebrate his birthday). I put my head down and pushed forward, catching up to Superman again and passing him for a moment. 

I could have wished the finish was more clearly marked, that we didn't have to make a sharp turn and run down a small grass hill to get there. I also don't think the finish area was long enough, nor the food placed in a way that runners would see it when they arrived. I am not an expert though, and I'm sure there were reasons for all the choices made. I know I appreciated the hot tub filled with cold water. I appreciated the banana and the bagel, as well as the shuttle back to the start.

I finished in 2:46:28.77, which is 20 minutes faster than my previous half marathon time and just shy of my goal B. I'd hoped to have splits for each mile, but the app I'd downloaded didn't work as expected. 

I'm scheduled to run my final half of the year on November 21. I plan to run the entire thing, maybe not even walking through water stops. I want to break 2:45.   

October 5, 2010

Barefoot running

If you have known me for any real length of time, you know I abhor shoes. I take them off as soon as I get home (sometimes in the car on the way home). When I have to seriously think, the shoes come off. They are a distraction. I walk around sock-footed at work, at friend's houses, and at the bar. Anywhere I'm going to be for a significant period of time, I prefer to be sans shoes. I have had strangers tell me I forgot my shoes, or give me lectures on the germs and diseases I could catch walking barefoot on city streets. The only thing that stops me is the cold, and even then I've been known to take the trash out barefoot in the snow.

It should come as no surprise, then, to find I am interested in shoes that mimic bare feet. I'm talking about Vibram FiveFingers shoes.

The Bikila are made specifically for running
I'd heard of minimalist shoes, but thought they were racing shoes for elite runners. Learning about Vibrams was my first introduction to the concept of running practically barefoot. I have wanted a pair since I first heard of them. It did NOT occur to me that people actually run barefoot. That they run races, half marathons and marathons... barefoot. I learned that little tidbit by exploring blogs read by Beth over at Shut Up and Run. Through her I chanced upon Angie, then Barefoot Neil (I'm running his birthday virtual race on Sunday). 

I think I threw Neil off a bit when I said I wanted to grow up to be just like him. I meant the barefoot running bit. Oh, and the blogging with all the followers bit too, but that's not what I was thinking when I wrote the virtual race post. I was thinking he just ran his first barefoot half marathon, that I am currently running half marathons, and that I would ultimately like to do them barefoot. Just. Like. Him.

I've been unhappy with my running shoes from the start. As a newbie I started out at Dick's, and bought $100 shoes that didn't last very long before disintegrating. When I learned there were actual running stores, I tried the ones in my area. One store said I pronate (my heel and ankle roll inward) every 6th step or so when I walk, so should wear corrective running shoes. Another said I don't pronate at all, but still suggested $130 shoes. 

Since then I've seen this video of Haille Gebrselassiean Olympic marathoner who pronates horribly. I've read articles that suggest neutral shoes can cause pronation. I've read articles that suggest natural pronation is not a problem, and that corrective shoes can cause some of the injuries runners experience. I experience knee issues, though these may be the result of ankle issues. Many many years ago I rolled my left ankle, seriously, more than once. When it doesn't want to loosen up on a run, my knees take the brunt of impact. I also experience toe issues, possibly because the high arch in my current running shoe is rolling my foot off my big toe, causing the one next to it to press harder against the ground.

Stride and form are big topics in running circles. I've been concentrating on a midfoot strike - shortened stride, which is supposed to be healthier than the over-extended heel-strike I started out using. I've read articles that suggest the purest form mechanic can be seen watching children run barefoot. 

All of this is rationalization, because when it comes right down to it I hate runnings shoes as much as I hate any other shoe. I hate the cost. I hate the feel. The idea of barefoot running appeals to me on a very deep level, because barefoot is already part of how I define myself. Monkey Boy bought a pair of KSO Vibrams in Germany and says they are the most comfortable shoe he's worn. If they are the next best thing to barefoot, I want them. As much as I want to be barefoot. 

It's taken me a while to work up to it, but I went out for my first barefoot run today - just a quarter mile around the circle where I live. I know at first I ran with a pure forefoot strike, because my heels didn't touch the ground. I didn't even make it the full quarter mile, in part because of acorn shells strewn everywhere. In part because running on the balls of your feet is tiring! I'm not sure what the best form is for this. When I ran the remainder of the circle, my heels were hitting and I was concerned they were hitting too hard. I guess, like everything, this will take practice and experimentation to find what works for me. There will be more barefoot runs. I'm so excited!